The strength of this year’s Hawk team is its perimeter play, at the point guard position and on the wing. Hawk assistant coach Dave Duda believes that this group of wings, including junior James Demery, sophomore Chris Clover, and freshmen Nick Robinson and Charlie Brown, has a bright future. “They’re a group with great length and athleticism,” Duda began. “I can see both James and Nick getting minutes at the trail position. We’ll try to get in match-up advantages similar to how we used AB (Aaron Brown) in last year’s system. Both James and Nick have the ability to beat guys off the dribble, especially if we get a favorable match-up.”
James Demery came to Hawk Hill with lofty expectations in 2014. As a freshman, Demery averaged 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. While he scored the ball well, including a 12-point, 5-rebound game which included a game-tying three in the closing seconds against LIU-Brooklyn, he didn’t shoot it particularly well in his rookie season. James was just 56% from the free-throw line and 18% from three.
As a sophomore, his minutes actually decreased from roughly 24 minutes a night to 22, but the role he played on the team increased, as did his productivity. An offseason to work on his core strength led to an ability to finish through traffic, and instruction during the offseason helped him improve his shooting stroke. Last year, his scoring jumped up to 8.1 points a night, and more importantly, his free-throw shooting went up ten points from 56% to 66%. While he attempted essentially the same number of threes, that percentage did improve from 18% to 24%.
St. Joe’s lost two wing players from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, in current Atlanta Hawk DeAndre Bembry and Aaron Brown, who is now playing professionally in Iceland. With their departures, plus those of Isaiah Miles and Papa Ndao and Pierfrancesco Oliva’s injury, James Demery will be looked upon to be a leader and major contributor on this year’s squad. His coach said as much. “He needs to do a lot for us in a lot of categories this season,” Coach Duda explained.
James Demery is one of the most athletic perimeter players in the Atlantic 10. He’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the Atlantic 10. Now with another offseason of lifting that saw his listed weight with the Hawks jump from 186 as a freshman up to 198 this season, Demery has the physicality to maximize his quickness and athleticism.
As has been the case, the facet of his game that needs to continue being refined for him to become a star in the league is his shooting. It’s something he’s worked tirelessly on, per Duda. “He’s improved his shooting in drills and skill development,” Dave said. “Now he must show he can do it in live action.”
On a team that will struggle to score, players like Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble, Charlie Brown, and James Demery are going to be asked to do a lot of it. And through the preseason, Demery has. “He’s been terrific at getting to the front of the rim,” Duda said of the junior from North Carolina. “He’s led the team in scoring and free-throw attempts in most live scrimmage action in the preseason.”
James Demery will be called on to do many things this year. Defend the opponent’s best perimeter player. Be one of the team’s best rebounders from the perimeter. And score. In 21 minutes per game last year, he averaged 8.1 points. His minutes could very realistically jump into that 32-36 per night range this year. With the jump in minutes, countless hours put in working on his jumper, added strength, and more confidence, can he become a consistent 14-16 point per game scorer? The answer to that question will play a major factor in the Hawks’ 2016-2017 success.